Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hercules Revisited

I had half of the issues of Bob Layton's Hercules: Prince of Power miniseries from '82 and '84 in the Original Collection, but my wife and I were at a local comic book show recently and I found both four-issue limited series for a buck each, so I figured it was time to fill that hole in the collection and in my Herc history.

I recognize the names of the comic book writers and artists of my youth, sure, but I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to recognizing their specific styles. But I do know I enjoyed Layton's work here when I viewed it through the nostalgic lens of a 12 year-old. Layton's irreverence plays perfectly with this over-the-top character.

The first series kicks off with Herc's father, Zeus, banishing him from Olympus until he learns true humility. This premise sets up a couple of fun single-issue adventures for Herc after picking up a Rigellian Recorder early in the first issue to document his exploits. I think the four issues are woven together perfectly and conclude with Galactus and Herc having a drink together, Galactus letting his hair down, and Herc bedding Frankie Raye. Good times!

The second series picks up with Herc still in exile and now permanently ditching the green-and-orange sash outfit for the black-and-red number. His Rigellian Recorder is still with him, but early on he picks up a Skrull outcast named Skyppi to the detriment of the story. The green-skinned shape-shifter is whiny, arrogant, childish, and played for laughs.

The up-side to this miniseries is the Thanos/Captain Marvel element, along with the use of Mentor and Eros on Titan (marred only by a Skyppi/Eros mistaken identity subplot that falls horribly flat). The last book draws the entire eight issue arc to a brawling father-son conclusion that I thought carried the appropriate weight, if a little bit too easy. But it does harken back to the beginning of the arc that began in the '82 series, and is ultimately satisfying.

So, to recap, the first series boils down to a little bit of sex, a lot of scrapin', and the search for a good drink. The second series brings Herc home with his lesson learned, but only after making us suffer through the unfortunate antics of a sidekick Skrull. "Embrace change," indeed.

But it was all worth the ride. So, dig 'em out of your collection if you've got 'em, or check out your quarter bins for some Mount Olympus-sized '80s fun!

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